Welcome back to our insightful journey into the fashion history books. Where we’ll be finely selecting our favourite and most influential fashion designers of all time and discussing their work in all of its glory. How exciting, I must say!
When you hear the word ‘couture’ one name instantly springs to mind. It is, of course, the queen of couture herself, Coco Chanel. Top marks if you guessed it! Born into a French working-class background in 1883 her journey from orphan to worldwide fashion icon is the ultimate tale of rags to riches.
Chanel’s influences and inspirations developed over the years like many designers. However, at the forefront of her designs, she always prioritised not only the style and grace of a lady but her comfort. In the words of Mademoiselle Coco Chanel herself ‘’luxury must be comfortable, otherwise, it is not luxury’’ At Blues & Browns we feel the same. There is no point in wearing a beautiful dress if you are trussed up like a chicken. You have to be able to breathe, move and dance the night away looking and feeling fabulous but comfortable.
Let’s take a look at some of Coco Chanel’s most iconic fashion pieces that engraved her name into the fashion history books as an icon and a legend.
The Quilted Bag
Almost 65 years to the date, women across the world welcomed a humble Chanel bag that would go on to be hailed as a fashion sensation. A little sceptical to begin with, Chanel’s high society clientele quickly came round to her empathetic design that included a hands-free, over the shoulder strap. As common as this may seem now, at the time this adaption of the clutch bag was positively pioneering! The bag itself was made of luxuriously quilted black leather, complemented by statement metal hardware such as the chain straps and ‘Mademoiselle’ twist lock.
Many years later and the fashion industry still considers this classic bag a must-have accessory for any lady young or old.
The Little Black DressNow, contrary to belief, it was not Hubert De Givenchy who created the little black dress. Although he did style a certain Audrey Hepburn in a divine little black number in the film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany's’ which caused quite a stir in the fashion industry. It was, in fact, Coco Chanel, who was the earliest purveyor of the wardrobe staple ‘LBD.’
Up until the 1920’s women were considered distasteful for wearing black garments whilst not in mourning. However, this all changed at the revolutionary hands of Coco Chanel. A 1926 edition of Vogue magazine published Chanel’s sketch of a simple black dress with long narrow sleeves and draped with a string of white pearls. It was so daringly simple that Vogue accredited the soon to be iconic design ‘a sort of uniform for women of all tastes.’
The Two Tone ShoesIt may seem bewildering in the modern-day that the concept of a woman’s shoe having two colours was so daring. But back in 1957, this was a rebellious breakthrough in the fashion industry. A lady’s footwear should always match the shade of her dress...or so we were told. Coco Chanel’s beige coloured slingback heel was no lucky draw of the colour palette. She meticulously chose the nude shade to create the illusion of elongating the leg. Whilst the black toe shorted the foot. Ever so clever if we do say so! The trend quickly caught on and the rich and famous of the 1950s including Bridgette Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, and Romy Schneider could all be seen wearing the signature Chanel heels.
The Tweed JacketIf there were to be just one item that encapsulated all that is Coco Chanel; the elegance, the couture, the femininity. It might just be the ladies' tweed suit jacket. Often relaxing in the Duke of Westminster’s countrywear, her partner at the time, Chanel fell in love with the comfort of tweed fabric used in gentleman's attire. The love affair with tweed is something we know all too well here at Blues & Browns. It is one of our favourite fabrics to work with for its lightweight feel, textured design, and of course, Scottish heritage.
In 1924, a Scottish factory began collaborating with Chanel to produce tweed with a more feminine touch. Chanel’s aim of liberating women from restrictive clothing combined with her desire to empower regal femininity would ultimately conceive the iconic tweed jacket. She captured all that was grand and profound in tailored menswear at that time and translated into a softer image that hugged the female silhouette. Variations of the principle design came about in the years that followed but the core design remained evergreen. Signature style quirks of the jackets included the contrasting colour braid trim, the soft, collarless neckline and statement buttons often embellished with the Chanel logo. Loving that extra designer touch!
Paired with a suit skirt in matching tweed, any woman from any background wearing the tweed jacket would exude sheer class and sophistication as she walked down the street.
The Chanel brand has remained ever prominent in the modern world of fashion. Even after Coco Chanel sadly passed away in 1971. The couture house has seen various chief designers carry on the legacy, most famously Karl Lagerfeld, a fellow fashion icon. Throughout all these years of change, one thing certainty remains; when a woman puts on a Chanel design, she instantly feels a million dollars.